Wednesday, April 27, 2011

El Rancho Easter Camp 2011

Paul and Sam waiting for their turn on the go-karts

Sam confident and comfortable in the driver's seat

Paul after passing Sam

Abby waiting at the gate

Madeline, Violet, Abigail

Madeline and Abigail on the ponies

Sam and Madeline with their Dominos Train

Sam with his shooting target

Abigail's chalk art self-portrait

Madeline's chalk art: Portrait of Abigail

Madeline collecting shells at the beach

Wobbly Wagon at the carnival

Faces painted

My girls joining in the dancing at the show

Violet on the pony

Sam at the beach in Waikanae





Determined to have a break from all things technological and equally determined to be "unconnected" for a change, I had to journal the old fashioned way at Easter Camp and took along pen and paper. Imagine that! I actually got a sore wrist from writing so much, keeping track of our activities and taking notes in the teaching sessions. But now that I am home, I am happy to transpose my thoughts into my most comfortable medium: my blog.

We arrived at El Rancho on Thursday at around 3:30 pm, after a brief stop at a poorly designed New World in Waikanae for chickens, buns and milk. The children helped Paul unpack the car in record time while I set up our kitchen with food and stocked the fridge with contraband (a bottle of wine). We were in Elm 5, rooms a, b and c, leaving d unoccupied. I think the idea is that two families of maximum five each could share the unit, but we had it to ourselves. We took the children to the camp playground to enjoy the last of the afternoon sun and true to form, Sam found a putter and ball to play his own game of mini-golf. Then we decided to take the children for a walk down by the river which heads to the beach, but only as far as the suspension bridge. We observed that Violet and Abigail were much stronger and had more endurance for a walk than last year. Heading back, we took a detour through the horse paddock, dodging "piles of poo" as the twins exclaimed. Walking past the stables we rediscovered the confidence course where Sam excelled himself, mastering all the ropes, a grin a mile wide on his face. The girls did well too. Thoroughly famished after our late afternoon of exploring, we headed back to our unit for our roast chicken dinner and a glass or two of the contraband. Ate some chocolate and headed to bed with our books for an early night. An excellent start to our mini-holiday.

On Friday morning we were woken with the sounds of "our door is locked and the key is inside!" Oh bother. We enjoyed a nice breakfast of cereal and toast and while the children played independently with our Dominoes, Paul went for a run to the beach. He returned with a key for the locked room and then we all headed off to the welcoming at Kauri Hall with Rob Namba. We noticed it was a much smaller crowd than last year with only 1/2 the chapel being used. After the welcome we headed back to our unit for coffee and brownie while Paul went to the morning tea with Rob. They chatted for quite some time and Paul shared with him about our experiences from camp last year. Rob remembered my letter!

Then it was my turn for a power walk to the beach while Paul and the children made lunch. It's a 2 km path along the river to the water's edge, but then I just kept walking along the beautiful shoreline and finally sat on a piece of driftwood watching the people and listening to the waves and enjoying the sunshine. While walking I had my i-river on with my favourite music but the Indigo Girls "And I went in seeking clarity..." kept ringing in my ears. I wasn't sure if it meant I was supposed to seek clarity or claim it, but I knew that was the key word for me this weekend.

Back at camp, a lunch of chicken sandwiches was followed by family fun camp activities. Sam and Paul lined-up for the go-karts and then all of us had a go at archery. When the girl said, "aim low" she really meant it: all my arrows ended up in the trees! Dead on target, but way too high. We also enjoyed some sidewalk chalk art, the flying fox, ice creams from the cafe, and Sam enjoyed rifle-shooting and managed to score a 7. A little bit of time out in our unit was followed by pies cooked in a Pinewood kitchen oven. Then our first session started at 7 pm, so Paul and I dropped the children off at Elm with the Runrig crew (excellent children's programme) and headed off to Kauri Hall hand in hand to listen to the speaker, Paul Windsor. Fantastic. Lovely to be together on our own for an hour and a half. Picked up the kids at 8:30 to hear they'd had a great time, the theme for the week was Loco, and not only did Sam sing some of the songs, he did the actions! High-5s all around and then we went to Redwood Hall for supper. Biscuits and green juice for the kids and a cuppa tea for me, accompanied by live acoustic guitar and a singer from Wellington. Even Sam enjoyed it! And for the first time it felt like camp, with all the people milling about, mingling and enjoying themselves.

Saturday morning was much the same with adults and children going off to their sessions. Paul managed to see the end of the kids' session when he went to pick them up and saw Sam dancing and fitting in with the other children. I had another walk to the beach during lunch and then back for a bowl of soup. The weather was inclement, but holding off so far despite the miserable forecast. The afternoon was full with a free carnival for the families: face-painting, wobbly wagon, carnival games and prizes, candy floss, pony rides and a show--all absolutely free. We felt truly blessed, and then enjoyed dinner out at the camp cafe, fish and chips for the children, lasagne for me and cheese cake for Paul. It was a fun time, followed by another session in the evening, dropping the kids off and seeing them all delightedly and confidently joining their groups before heading off to Kauri Hall. Family together again for supper before bed, a little more tired than the night before.

Sunday morning dawned gloomy and although it had rained in the night, the morning was dry. We all got up at 7 am and headed to the field for the dawn service around a bonfire. It was lovely to gather with like-minded people, to sing songs and share communion on this Easter Sunday morning. Back for showers and breakfast before another session. Lunch and it was still not raining so we got in line early for the pony rides, which we all enjoyed as a family. More time in the go-karts for Paul and Sam while the girls and I enjoyed meeting another family at the flying fox. At 3:30 we joined several other campers for a walk to the beach where there was a scheduled sand-castle competition. We decided not to join the competition but just to enjoy the beach for as long as the children would last. Windy and cold, but plenty of logs and shells to play with so we had a good time. How could we come all this way and not take the children to the beach?! Tired and sandy, the walk home at 5 pm was laborous, but we made it and popped the kids in the shower while I cooked a monster meal of Sizzlers and noodles. It was scoffed in record time! Our final session that night and then our final good-byes to the Runrig team, after promising to try to bring them up to Inglewood in the school holidays. Fingers crossed on that one. Our last supper with more live music and then the rains came. No one complained however.

Monday morning dawned and it was still raining but it was just a matter of packing the car, cleaning the unit and heading home. All went smoothly and we enjoyed listening to two of the Runrig CDs in the car. Lunch at Subway in Wanganui and then we were home by 2:30 in the afternoon. The house had that cold unlived in feeling, which was quickly remedied by a fire. I went into conquer mode and unpacked all the bags, throwing the towels in the washing machine and getting the next load ready to go. We'd only been away five days but it felt more like a couple of weeks. It was a great break for our family. And I think some clarity was achieved: on a simple level, that Easter Camp is good for our family. There was some clarity on a more complex level too but that will require some more pondering. Perhaps for another time.

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